Kenya: Clinton lands as US breathes fire

hillary_clinton3US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton landed in style as Washington and London warned Kenyas Cabinet they would hold accountable those who frustrate reform agenda and punishment of post-election violence suspects.(picture from The Standard)

US ambassador Michael Ranneberger set the stage for Mrs Clintons arrival, shadowed by the many calls by President Barack Obama to Kenya to hurry up reform agenda and end to impunity, by releasing a statement coached in hard language and with limited options for Kenya.

The British High Commissioner Rob Macaire in addition revealed the combined number of ministers, top civil servants, and entrepreneurs banned from stepping on British soil because of their conduct and dealings now stands at 20.

Also training his gun on Kenya was Obamas Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnie Carson, who said Mrs Clinton would speak on Kenyas governance problems, corruption, human rights and impunity.

Carson said: “Under the watchful eye of Kenyas long serving Attorney General (Amos Wako) a man who has served loyally under President Kibaki and President Moi not one government official or serving politician has been successfully prosecuted for corruption in two decades.”

Traditionally, the rest of the 27 European Union states reciprocates visa bans on foreigners by one of their members, which raises the prospect some Kenyan ministers, despite their official assignment, would never be allowed to step in EU states, and in all probability, the US, too.

US and UKs anger stemmed from last week decision by the Cabinet to kill local tribunal option as a means of punishing post-election offenders, leaving but a small window for The Hague option, and going for Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commissions way.

“The US will stand firmly behind Kenyans as they insist on full implementation of the reform agenda. We will take necessary steps to hold accountable those who do not support reform agenda or who support violence, said Ranneberger.

He added: “Merely expanding the role of the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission and establishing a mechanism in the Judiciary is not a credible approach in eyes of Kenyans and international community.”

Local tribunal

“Ensuring an independent local special tribunal, with independent investigating powers, would clearly demonstrate seriousness that has not been evident,” the envoy went on.

International pressure swelled against Kenya as Prime Minister Raila Odinga, in response, said Kenya could do with less lectures on governance. President Kibaki has called for a special Cabinet meeting on Friday, to review the backlash from last weeks decision, and perhaps make a fresh bid to establish a special tribunal.

Macaire demanded an explanation on why the Government abandoned the quest for a special tribunal. He spoke when he met Kenyas Immigration Minister Otieno Kajwang to discuss UKs request for co-operation in regard to movement of persons between the two countries.

The Ranneberger statement ran: “The US is deeply concerned by the Coalition Governments decision that appears to indicate it will not establish a special tribunal to hold accountable perpetrators of violenceFailure by Kenya to take ownership of the process of accountability at all levels will call into serious question whether the political will exists to carry out fundamental reforms.”

Carson stepped in with a statement of Americas official position: “It is better to have a local tribunal to try people who committed crimes in the community.”

Carson made it clear Mrs Clinton will root for strong institutions, particularly police, electoral, judicial reforms, and a new constitution as recommended under the National Accord. His speech entitled, Kenya on the Brink: Democratic Renewal or Deepening Crisis, was delivered a week before Mrs Clintons visit.

But yesterday Raila, while addressing Agoa conference, which will be opened by President Kibaki today, said: “Africa does not need too much lecturing on governance issues.”

Carsons statement on the Clinton visit comes against the backdrop of President Kibakis summon of a special Cabinet meeting on Friday to discuss the implications of its resolution last Thursday to abandon creation of a special tribunal to try post-election violence suspects.

Trade meet

“Although this is largely a trade and commercial event, she will use the occasion to reinforce the message that we view Kenya as an important and longstanding regional partner. We value Kenyas friendship and that we stand ready to help Kenya strengthen its democratic institutions, fight corruption, counter the rise in extrajudicial killings and to deal with some of its mounting socio-economic problems,” Carson said in his speech, posted in the National Endowment for Democracy website.

Macaire said: “UK is seeking an explanation from the Government on its move to block a special tribunal and opt for the local courts to try post-election violence suspects.”

He added: “We want to know what the Government decision means in practice,” and announced those who incited or perpetrated violence after the disputed presidential election risked visa bans from the EU.

“Having identified the leading suspects, (former UN Secretary General) Kofi Annan gave the Kenyan Government two clear options: The Government could establish an independent court to try the suspects or he would turn the names over to the ICC for investigations and prosecutions. Annan has now turned over the names of post-election violence perpetrators to the ICC.”

“We believe that police reform, from the top down, is crucial to restoring public confidence,” he said.

The former US ambassador in Kenya did not spare the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission: “Kenyas six-year-old Anti-Corruption Commission has demonstrated a record similar (to Wakos) success rate.”

Judiciary not spared

“Kenyas court system has also shown a willingness to play along with the AGs style of politics. On the rare occasions when corruption cases are presented to the courts, they are thrown out on procedural grounds or are allowed to die in a sea of judicial bureaucracy. In Kenya, there is a saying that sums up the public attitude towards the nations courts: “Why hire a lawyer when you can buy a judge?” said Carson.

The new move to back the TJRC has been greeted with resentment. Key development partners and politicians have said the Cabinet erred.

“The current situation in Kenya highlights the countrys ongoing challenges to deepen its democracy and to make it meaningful,” Carson said.

The Standard

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